The two-week-long government shutdown has finally ended, and congressional leaders from both sides have retreated to lick their wounds and prepare for the next round. But something happened during the 15 days the government was closing down its usual operations: ordinary citizens across the U.S. stepped up to fill the gap and help their fellow Americans.
It’s a real tribute to the American spirit of compassion and a clear sign to all of us that we don’t need government to live our lives and help our neighbor. In fact, when the benevolent hand of Nanny Government isn’t there to dole out taxpayer dollars and lull us into a state of listless lethargy, Americans take responsibility for their neighbors and their community. Yes, the shutdown was tough; but there were bright spots of hope in the midst of the challenges.
In tribute, we’ve compiled a list of 15 positive things that came out of the 15 days the government was shut down.
1. Chris Cox, a chainsaw sculptor from South Carolina, gathered up his lawnmower and some other supplies and headed to Washington, D.C., to clean up the memorials. “We are the stewards of these buildings that are memorials,” he said.
2. Inspired by Cox, hundreds of volunteers from across the U.S. descended on D.C. to help with the cleanup efforts.
3. Honor Flight Veterans who arrived in D.C. the day the shutdown started ignored barricades set up around the World War II Memorial. Instead, they moved the barriers aside and swarmed the memorial, determined to pay their respects.
4. When the Navy-Air Force game was about to be canceled due to the shutdown, United Airlines stepped up, offering to fly the Air Force team to the game for free. The team wanted to honor their contract to fly with Delta. In the end, United Services Automobile Association (USAA) picked up the $230,000 tab for the team to fly with Delta. Due to these outside organizations stepping up, the game was not canceled.
5. In North Carolina, the Food Lion grocery chain stepped up when the state ran out of funds for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The chain offered $500,000 in gift cards to help families who rely on WIC.
6. Fisher House sent checks to cover death benefits for the families of fallen troops.
7. In Rowan County, an anonymous donor provided $10,000 to local charities to help out with families in need of food due to lack of government benefits.
8. Philanthropists John and Laura Arnold of Texas spent $10 million to keep the Head Start program open in six states, helping 7,000 kids who would have been affected.
9. A Phoenix-based food bank gave aid to workers affected by Grand Canyon being closed.
10. New York State stepped up to fund the Statue of Liberty and keep it open for tourists.
11. In New Hampshire, the Rumney Climbers Association took over the maintenance of a state park when the Forest Service workers were furloughed.
12. Southern New Hampshire University gave scholarships to active duty military personnel who lost tuition assistance.
13. Private donors in Arkansas gave donations to fund Our House, which assists unwed mothers and their children in Little Rock.
14. Many employees affected by the shutdown proved their mettle by using their time to volunteer, giving back to their local communities – a tribute to their resilience and hardworking character.
15. And as far as Congress goes, the shutdown and subsequent deal showed clearly which legislators are in Washington to work for their constituents, and which are only interested in serving their own best interest. Especially within the GOP, voters now know which policy-makers will take a stand on the issues that matter, and which ones will cave into establishment diktats.
The negotiations must continue. Under the “deal” they finally settled on last week, the continuing resolution runs out on Jan. 15, and we hit the debt ceiling on Feb. 7. Congress has their work cut out for them. But we can hope these 15 days have showed them they have to enact real solutions, or real Americans will suffer. They can’t bury their heads in the sand anymore. They’ve bought themselves some more time; they’d better use it well.
Adam Brandon is executive vice president of FreedomWorks, a grass-roots service center to a community of more than 6 million activists who believe in individual liberty and constitutionally limited government.